Published: May 6th 2015 by HarperTeen
Format: Paperback, 342 pages
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Princess Eadlyn has grown up hearing endless stories about how her mother and father met. Twenty years ago, America Singer entered the Selection and won the heart of Prince Maxon—and they lived happily ever after.
Eadlyn doesn't expect her own story to end in romance - she has no interest in repeating the fairy tale. But a princess's life is never entirely her own - and Eadlyn cannot escape her very own Selection, and one particular entry who may just capture her heart ...
35 suitors. 1 princess. A new Selection has begun.
The Selection, The Elite, and The One were this great, self-contained little package that dealt with a short span of time in Illéa. When The Heir was announced, I was a bit apprehensive because a spin-off sequel had the potential to ruin all the warm and fuzzy feelings I had about the original series – warm and fuzzy feelings that had taken a super long to develop because the series is so different from what I usually enjoy about dystopian fiction.
I think Cass does an admirable job of telling a new story with The Heir. It’s not simply a rehashing of Maxon’s selection with a princess instead of a prince. The mechanics and motivations of it are different, and this Selection plays out against a backdrop of rising civil unrest as a new generation comes to age. This new generation has been told that the caste system no longer exists and that their opportunities are limitless, but older folk still remember and still hold on to their prejudices. People haven’t changed their surnames, so easy to guess their backgrounds. The population, especially younger folks, believe that the royal family holds the solution to this problem, but of course, the royal family doesn’t have a magic wand that makes these issues go away. What they do have is the power of distraction. Let’s hold a Selection to get the heir – the first female heir of Illéa by the way – a husband.
Eadlyn is going to be a hard character for many folks to like for the same reasons that much of the populous doesn’t like her: she’s a woman. She’s head-strong, stubborn, brash, self-centred and entitled. Qualities that a prince would have worn with pride, but a princess is meant to be selfless, demure, classy, polite, and kind. Not that Eadlyn can’t be those things, but they’re certainly not high on her list of priorities. She spends her days with her father, learning to rule the country and helping him where she can. She has no interest in getting married, and when her family implores her to help them out with this distraction, she feels used and unimportant. She lives in a world where everyone is told that where they are born doesn’t dictate the rest of their lives, everyone it seems, except her. Eadlyn’s self-pitying (and self-important) rants can get annoying, and I was horrified at the way that she approached her Selection (I think she forgot for a while that she was dealing with actual people, with actual families and reputations and lives), but I can see a lot of potential in her. I’m happy that Cass wrote such a controversial character.
Eadlyn’s family is her support structure and strength. Her twin brother Arhen understands her the best, but her father is a close second. Eadlyn is resentful of the seven minutes between Arhen and her that mean that she’s the heir, but she loves him dearly all the same. Their care for one another is obvious every time they’re together, and I love that they don’t exclude their younger brothers from their bond. If she gets along well with all the men in her family, then Eadlyn has a special spot in her heart for her mother, her aunt, and her mother’s friends. I like that Eadlyn had these amazing women – all familiar faces – to look up to. Although I was sad to see a distance between America and Eadlyn, it wasn’t unexpected. Every young woman has a phase where she feels mother doesn’t understand her, and this is Eadlyn going through the same. It’s hard to see America rebuffed and discounted the way she is – I guess it’s all the residual loyalty from the original trilogy – but I’m hopeful Eadlyn grows out of it.
I would wax lyrical about the 35 suitors here, but I can’t. Not for spoiler reasons, but because The Heir holds us at arms length from all but a handful of the candidates. It makes sense in a way – we got to know the candidates from America and Maxon’s Selection because we were with America all the time, and she had time to get to know the others. Seeing the Selection process from Eadlyn’s eyes means that if she’s not interested in meeting the suitors (and she isn’t), then we don’t get to either. Still, I really like Kile’s character. I’m impressed that he’s always there for Eadlyn, in whatever capacity she needs him in, and that he’s managed to put aside his prejudices and get to know her better. I’ll be really happy if this ends up being a case of childhood enemies finding love! I love how daring Cass is in writing Eadlyn the way she is with Kile – she uses him for physical comfort and little else for much of the book. I also really like Henri, he’s super sweet and I – just like Eadlyn – don’t want him to get hurt. The other boys haven’t really made an impression on me, not even Erik, who I gather I should be swooning over. I just feel like I didn’t get to know him!
One of my favourite aspects of the book is how Eadlyn’s Selection is different from her father’s. She got to choose the names of her suitors from baskets, one from each region in Illéa (Maxon’s father chose his candidates for him, spending years searching for the best pool of 35). She doesn’t have a structure to follow in terms of dates and when she eliminates people (which is probably a bad thing considering what ends up happening). But most importantly, Eadlyn is a girl, and she’s meant to spend time – and possibly find love – with 35 strange boys. She encounters problems Maxon never had to face, because Maxon was never in a position where any of his candidates could physically over-power, intimidate, or hurt him. I like that Cass explored these implications of a princess’s Selection.
So there you have it. I liked The Heir, I think it takes the idea of The Selection and does something new and different with it. I liked getting to know Eadlyn and her siblings, and seeing all my old(er) favourites from the original series. Fans of the first three books will find lots of things to like in The Heir, but new readers will find it easy to jump into the story here without too much trouble. I’m looking forward to the next one, especially because The Heir ends on such a cliffhanger.